The islands of the Japanese archipelago were formed from the tears of a goddess. Where each tear fell into the Pacific ocean, an island arose or so goes the legend.
Today, Japan has grown into a land of contrasts where uber-modern gadgets, buildings and culture go hand-in-hand with time-honoured traditions and rituals.
My first visit to Japan was great. Although I didn't travel through this country as much as I would have liked to, I did spend time getting to know some members of my husband's family that I otherwise would not have met. We were the first family visitors they had had since moving to Honjo, a small town about an hour away from Tokyo, ten years ago. I couldn't help feeling sad that most of the family will never be able to afford to visit them as travel is so expensive in Brazil - never mind that it is practically the otherside of the world, but I was glad to be able to relay news and show videos.
My Japanese Brazilian family at Mount Fuji
Japan and Brazil have an immigration partnership that dates back over a hundred years when Japanese farmers arrived to work in coffee plantations in 1908. I have always been fascinated by the Japanese population that in exists in Brazil, mainly in Parana and Sao Paulo. They make up the largest concentration of Japanese descendants outside Japan, beating the US. Despite some initial problems and ill-treatment during the second wolrd war, similar to what happened in the US at the time, the population recovered and today has become one of the more successful groups of immigrants within Brazil.
The beautiful Japanese countryside
Conversely in the 1980s and 90s Japanese Brazilians started to migrate to Japan, the approximate population today is 450,000. Tokyo currently holds the largest carnival outside Brazil and communities of Japanese Brazilians remain Brazilian from a cultural perspective. Portuguese is the third most spoken language there after Chinese and Korean and is also among the most studied languages in Japan.
Japanese Cultural Festival in Maringa
In 2008 a census was conducted on Japanese Brazilians from the city where I live, Maringa. It revealed among other things that 15% of the 15,000 strong population was working in Japan; that 6.61% were born in Japan, 40 was the average age, 47% can read and write Japanese and that 52% are women.
Everyday I am learning more about Brazil's culture and its past. I have come to love the racial diversity and fascinating history that surrounds this giant of South America, the country that has now become the first in its continent to host the Olympic games.